Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) urged the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee to protect new rules to make school meals healthier under the Child Nutrition bill—the first major nutritional overhaul in 15 years. The House Republican-majority Appropriations Committee recently approved a spending bill that would slash funding needed to meet new nutritional standards for school breakfasts and lunches. This week, the bill will go to the floor of the House and is expected to pass. In a letter to Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI), Chairman of the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, Gillibrand urged the committee to stop the House’s destructive language from being included in the final Senate Appropriations bill.
Senator Gillibrand said, “House Republicans are trying to undermine critical gains made in school lunch reform. The obesity crisis in New York and throughout the country puts our children at serious risk of chronic illnesses and holds them back from a bright future. Too many of our children are falling behind because they don’t have the access to fruits, vegetables, and whole grain-rich foods. If our children are going to reach their potential, we must take steps to reduce child obesity and health care costs and ensure that our children have healthier school meals.”
More than half of our nation’s children rely on the Child Nutrition Programs. With skyrocketing child obesity rates, obesity costs nearly $150 billion a year in increased health care costs and lost productivity.
Under the new rules, schools would serve more fruits, vegetables, and low-fat milk, cut sodium, use more whole grains, and limit starchy vegetables to one cup per week. Senator Gillibrand fought to increase the reimbursement rate for schools participating in the National School Lunch Program to help schools afford healthier breakfasts and lunches.
The full text of Senator Gillibrand’s letter is below:
Dear Chairman Kohl,
I am writing to you today to urge you to address the destructive report language included in the House-passed Agriculture Appropriations bill that recommends the elimination of the national school lunch and breakfast program’s nutritional standards.
Last week, the Republican majority on the House Appropriations Committee approved a spending bill for FY’12 that recommends that the USDA halt implementation of the new nutritional standards for school breakfasts and lunches. The recently passed Child Nutrition bill included this provision because meals containing more fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy will help combat diet-related disease in children.
The Child Nutrition Programs serve as an incredibly important benefit for 56.16% of children in our nation. For many children, the lunch they receive at school is the only opportunity they have to eat fruits and vegetables. This is especially important considering that in a recent report the USDA found that 16 percent of households with children reported food insecurity.
In addition, the childhood obesity rate is skyrocketing. In the last 45 years, the childhood obesity rate has increased from 6.5% of children to 17% percent of young children. And it is costing us as a nation. A recent report by the Centers for Disease and Control estimates that obesity costs nearly $150 billion a year in increased healthcare costs and lost productivity for our nation.
Our nation’s children deserve healthy meals provided at school so that they can live up to their potential and not suffer from diet-related disease such as obesity, Type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease. I urge you not to include the destructive nutrition standard language in the final Appropriations bill.